systematic business growthSystematic business growth is the only real and sustainable way to move onward and upward!

Systemization is the key!

I just finished reading Onward,” a fascinating book by Howard Schultz, president of Starbucks, the coffee giant. The book details Schultz’ return as CEO—in order to bring the company back from the brink—to the company’s remarkable recovery.

What made this book so interesting was that, at about that time, our company was going through a similar situation. Of course, Starbucks boasts many more zeros in its sales figures and projections!

No matter how large or small a company may be, many if not most of the challenges are the same.  ALL companies need to deliver a profitable product to an end user, whether goods or services. However, the process of doing that is what separates the bad from the good, and the good from the great!

Schultz looks at each of his 16,000-plus locations as being unique and necessarily able to stand on its own.

Economic Challenges For Business Growth

One would have to be living under a rock not to have noticed the transformation the printing industry has undergone over the past 10 years. It’s due to several factors, i.e. the Internet, outsourcing to other countries, over-capacity, the economic downturn, digital tablets for reading books, etc.

Many companies are still in survival mode, and too many have thrown in the towel. The challenges are great!  However, as I wrote in a song years ago, “It’s time to turn our face toward the wind.”  Time to face those challenges head on!

So, I was inspired by the way Howard Schultz faced and acknowledged his own company’s challenges. He shared his failures and successes as he looked for that “silver bullet” to ride back to the top. Soon, he came to realize there was no ONE silver bullet that was going to turn Starbucks around. Rather, it was going to take an arsenal of new ideas (bullets). Schultz called it a “Transformation Agenda.”

About that same time, we lost 60% of our printing business, almost overnight.  It came as such a shock in 2009, and I was not sure my company could survive. I took comfort in the fact that, since 1994 we had systematically written down and improved our processes. Moreover, we were still delivering profitable goods to our customers. I chronicled all of that in my book System Busters: How to Stop Them In Your Business.

Systems Save the Day

I felt certain we had been doing many things RIGHT or GOOD, and even some things GREAT, toward systematic business growth.  We had systemized every part of our company, which was what was needed when we had to downsize in order to save it. But, it didn’t change the fact that it was a new day, with new challenges. It was also a not-so-bright day, right in the middle of the so-called “Great Recession.”

Like Howard Schultz, I decided to take back many of the responsibilities of running our print company. It was also important to keep our software company operating and improving. You see, through systemization I had been able to delegate most all of the day-to-day responsibilities of my printing company to others. Systemization had given me time to build the second company; also, time to rebuild our sales and marketing, and to oversee our downsizing.

Thinking how we had grown, it was a humbling experience to realize we would now be starting from close to the bottom. I admit it was hard to re-energize and motivate myself, as there were many days of disappointments and trials. Yet, I saw the hand of providence move many times when all seemed hopeless. A reprieve would come, and we lived to fight another day.

With our Daily Routine checklists, Quality Control checklists and our other written systems, we were able to downsize and delegate the responsibilities of employees we had laid off, to our remaining staff. Truthfully, we barely missed a beat!  Our waste remained low and we still kept our on-time delivery rate at nearly 100 percent.

Using a Transformation Agenda

We came up with our own “transformation agenda” that called for lowering costs by drastically cutting spending in every area.  It was important to retain our good reputation and keep from hurting staff members with families who relied on us. Our agenda also called for continuing to move ONWARD and UPWARD in marketing. We need to find new ways to bring in new business and rethink our product mix.

We spent many hours planning and systemizing new marketing campaigns. It all had to be carried out like our Quality Control systems. We also built our unique version of an Automatic Marketing system. We have learned over the past 15 years that, without written systems a company is bound to get hit-or-miss results. Systematic business growth is a must!

I also sought out relationships with other business owners in our area, in order to band together for these challenging times. Slowly, but surely, we began to find OUR way back from the brink—back to black.

Facing the Future with Systematic Business Growth

I’m proud to report, after a two-year struggle, our optimism about the future of print, and the direction our company is headed. We will soon announce that System100, the software we developed for another company, will take a quantum leap forward. We’re about to finish beta testing an exciting new module.  All this happened during the worst economic times of my business career!

This past week, two of my sons, who will take over our printing company, met with many industry leaders from our area. Afterward, they called to give me their full assessment of what they heard and learned. My eldest son Paul said, “Dad, as I took notes on what the speaker advised everyone to do to survive and thrive, it hit me. We were already doing, or planning to do, everything he mentioned.”

That was confirmation for me that we are on the right track, and that my sons GET IT!

Did I mention? Great systems work!

[NOTE OF CAUTION: I suggest we, as business owners and managers, need to be more aware of the direction of our country and the leadership that can affect the future of our businesses. Candidates for various offices should be closely vetted by us all, and not just left up to the media. Our founders gave us a great gift, a country where we have the right, at least for now, to pursue happiness, and also to pursue Systematic Business Growth. But, if we take our eyes off the ball, we could all find ourselves fighting over how we lost it and who’s to blame. Yes, great systems work! But, they must be maintained and carefully guarded or they will return to chaos—as will our nation]

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